When the NFL was locked out during the summer, Drew Brees was front and center at the negotiating table, then standing in front of the cameras talking after the meetings. Tom Brady was one of the guys to file anti-trust lawsuits against the league. While in the end Jeff Saturday did the dirty work of negotiating, the stars were front and center.
For the NBA, you hear union president Derek Fisher speak, and sometimes other team reps like Roger Mason Jr., Maurice Evans or Jared Dudley.
Is it time for the stars to speak out for the union? Some around the league told David Aldridge of NBA.com that yes, the time is now.
“We’re all coming together and trying to speak to Derek Fisher, who’s a great guy and a great person,” Clippers forward Craig Smith said recently. “At the same time, there’s kind of a difference between him and Kobe. Just being honest….
“I think I would want to see them at the bargaining table,” Smith said last month, at the Goodman (D.C.)-Shaw League (L.A.) game in Washington. “I mean, I don’t know, I probably have a lot of people that probably agree with me, too, if we had those guys up front. Because (those are) people (who) you come to see win, every single game — [Dwyane] Wade, Carmelo, Stoudemire, KG [Kevin Garnett], you know? Those are our leading guys, every year.”
Aldridge asked Carmelo Anthony why the stars have not been front and center in this fight.
“We’re not allowed,” Anthony said. “I mean, everybody has their own opinion. You hear people talk here and there. But nobody comes out and says what they really want to say. That’s just the society we live in.”
He laughed a little. And, then: “Athletes today are scared to make Muhammad Ali-type statements.”
Don’t bring in Ali, who said actual controversial things and then had to pay a price for his beliefs. Ali was talking about war and religion; you guys are talking about how to divide up billions amongst yourselves.
After that, Anthony said that he and guys like LeBron James and Chris Paul fully support the union. That they are sticking together.
A lot of stars attended a meeting All-Star Weekend that was mostly for show. And at a regional meeting just last month Kobe spoke to other players and urged them to stay unified behind Fisher and Hunter.
But would having the biggest stars in the league at the table make a difference? Likely not much in the negotiations. You can be sure a hardline owner is not going to be swayed by an argument because Kobe said it not Fisher or some attorney. It might help some with the public relations battle going on, giving the union a more recognizable face to put with the players positions. It can help show the players unity. It would get more publicity.
The NBA’s big stars were front and center in the 1998 labor battles but that was part of the problem — other union members thought the big names were out for themselves. So this time around they are staying quiet, letting the union leadership do the talking. And now they are getting criticized for that.
It may not matter if the stars step forward, but it might help some.